This terraced structure is not the remains of some ancient amphitheater, but a metropolis of the dead that’s just as dense as that of the living city of Hong Kong. It’s this ancient, ruinous feel contrasting with the bustle of millions of people all around it that inspired urban photographer Manuel Alvarez Diestro to capture it as part of a series of gloomy, grimy photos.
Ten of these cemeteries are portrayed in the series, often integrated into hillsides, so packed that each grave is shoehorned beside the other. Like many other cities around the world, Hong Hong has a big problem finding enough room to deal with its dead. The hillside cemeteries were a solution in the ’60s, and by the ’80s, they were interring bodies in high-rise buildings beside residential areas brimming with life.
Seeking to capture the mood of the cemeteries themselves, Diestro only photographed them early in the morning during the rainy season (one of them is ironically named ‘Happy Valley.’) He told The Atlantic that the cemeteries reminded him of the Roman amphitheater of Leptis Magna.
It’s no surprise that Hong Kong’s cemeteries are in such a state, considering how overcrowded the city is in general. It’s twice as dense as New York and four times as crowded as London. Take a look at some incredible photos of Hong Kong urban density by Michael Wolf.